About WWP

Protecting and restoring western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives, and legal advocacy.

Our Mission

Western Watersheds Project is a nonprofit environmental conservation group with 1,500 members founded in 1993 and has field offices in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California.

We work to influence and improve public lands management throughout the West with a primary focus on the negative impacts of livestock grazing on 250 million acres of western public lands, including harm to ecological, biological, cultural, historic, archeological, scenic resources, wilderness values, roadless areas, Wilderness Study Areas and designated Wilderness.

Partners

WWP works in partnership with a broad array of conservation groups including the Oregon Natural Desert Association in Oregon, WildEarth Guardians in New Mexico, the Center for Biological Diversity in Arizona, and The Larch Company in Ashland, Oregon.

With these groups, WWP has organized a broad coalition to promote environmentally protective grazing regulations and to advance nationwide legislation to authorize the buy-out and closure of public land grazing leases on a willing-seller basis, nationwide.

WWP’s long-term partner in our efforts to bring the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service into compliance with national environmental laws is the non-profit environmental law firm Advocates For The West in Boise, Idaho.

Litigation

In 1993 WWP pioneered competitive bidding for grazing leases on Idaho state school endowment land and continues a program of competing for high conservation value school endowment land grazing leases in three states. That effort resulted in April 1999 in WWP winning three unanimous decisions at the Idaho Supreme Court in one day including the first reversal of an Idaho Constitutional amendment in more than 65 years.

At this time WWP holds over 4000 acres of these school endowment land leaseholds that are being managed for wildlife habitat and conservation purposes.

Through vigorous litigation under the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act and Federal Land Policy Management Act, WWP has successfully challenged public-lands grazing practices that threaten watersheds and endangered species such as salmon, steelhead and bull trout.

In August 2005 WWP won an unprecedented federal court injunction ruling removing livestock from more than 800,000 acres of BLM managed lands in south-central Idaho because of violations of federal law.

WWP and other groups also recently stopped the U.S. Department of Agriculture from carrying out an unscientific, inhumane plan to kill coyotes, foxes, ravens, badgers and other native predators on 35 million acres in southern Idaho.

In June 2007 WWP won an impressive federal court victory with the overturning of the Bush Administration’s grazing regulations for the Bureau of Land Management. This win beneficially affects over 160,000,000 acres of public lands in eleven states.

WWP petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the rare slickspot peppergrass, threatened by livestock grazing, under the Endangered Species Act. The Service declined, and in 2008 WWP filed suit and won a ruling that compelled the agency to go back and issue a new decision, this time based on the best available science. As a result, the rare plant ultimately got “threatened species” protections.

In 2009, we won a ruling that the “not warranted” Endangered Species Act determination for greater sage grouse had been tainted by political tampering, and setting that bird on track for a new determination (issued in 2010, “warranted” for listing but “precluded” by other priorities). This set the stage for West-wide sage grouse habitat conservation planning, and elevated the greater sage grouse to a national conservation priority.

Our litigation to end harmful livestock grazing in Sonoran Desert National Monument began in 2008, when we sued to compel the Bureau of Land Management to mange livestock grazing, found to be harmful by the Monument’s own managers, in ways that protect the Monument and its natural features. A 2010 settlement compelled a new management plan, which closed half the Monument to commercial livestock. Efforts to win continued reforms are ongoing.

In 2012, WWP led litigation to halt domestic sheep grazing on the Payette National Forest that was threatening the struggling bighorn sheep population with deadly livestock diseases. We won a landmark ruling, later upheld by the federal circuit court, that required the Forest Service to close the allotments and pay close attention to the “risk of contact” posed by authorizing disease-riddled domestic sheep close to bighorn sheep habitats.

WWP has undertaken a longstanding campaign to shut down the USDA’s Sheep Eexperiment Station, a facility dedicated to promoting research to support sheep ranching in the West. In 2017 we won a restraining order closing its Snakey and Kelly Canyon pastures to domestic sheep in order to protect grizzly bears and bighorn herds, and in 2021, a separate ruling struck down the management plan for the Sheep Station and shut down its livestock operations on all but a tiny fraction of its grazing allotments.

WWP has a long and successful tradition of litigating in defense of large carnivores, often targeted for extinction by the livestock industry. When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed Endangered Species Act protections from the Yellowstone grizzly bear population, WWP sued and won those protections back, protecting the bears from sport hunting and hostile state management plans. WWP litigation forced an end to a wolf and coyote predator killing contest in Salmon, Idaho, and a broader lawsuit against USDA Wildlife Services in Idaho yielded a 2020 settlement that stopped M-44 ‘cyanide bomb’ use across Idaho, and blocked the agency from killing wolves in designated wilderness, in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, and in the Wood River Valley.

Field Monitors

WWP regularly employs field monitors to identify damaged watersheds and document abusive land-management practices. Among other things, monitors report on the following: livestock numbers on grazing allotments; turnout times; abusive grazing; degradation of streams and stream banks; destruction of riparian and upland habitat; degradation of cultural, historic, archaeological, and scenic resources, illegal diversions of water, negative impacts to wilderness values, roadless areas, Wilderness Study Areas and designated Wilderness.

National Public Lands Grazing Campaign:

WWP is one of six steering committee groups in the NPLGC, a progressive plan to end abusive livestock grazing on America’s public lands and compensate public-lands ranchers in the process. More than 120 conservation groups, including the Sierra Club, endorse the proposal. See https://www.publiclandsranching.org for more information about the NPLGC.

Western
Watersheds
Project